What are Bloodborne Pathogens?
Bloodborne pathogens (BBP) are microorganisms that can cause disease when transferred from an infected person to another person through blood or other potentially infected body fluids. The microorganisms are capable of causing serious illness or death. The most common diseases spread in this manner are Hepatitis B (HBV), Hepatitis C, and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Other examples of bloodborne diseases include malaria, and syphilis.
Who is at risk?
Workers in health care and public safety jobs could be potentially exposed to these disease pathogens. These workers include but are not limited to, doctors, dentists, nurses, paramedics, police housekeepers, and solid waste collectors, etc. Needlestick injuries are the most common method of exposure. Another common form of exposure is coming in contact with the blood or other bodily fluids while helping an injured person.
How can you become exposed?
Exposure to bloodborne pathogens may occur in many ways. Any kind of opening or break in the skin provides a mode of entry for infected blood or fluids to enter your body. Scrapes, cuts, rashes, burns, and other minor injuries, provide an opening in the skin for infection to occur. Your eyes, nose, and mouth are mucous membranes, are also openings for diseases to enter.
Universal precautions are methods of protecting yourself from bloodborne pathogens.
Universal precautions assume all body fluids are infected with bloodborne pathogens.
Universal precautions include:
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – to be used at all times to prevent skin or mucous membrane contact with bodily fluids. Always inspect PPE for cracks, holes, or other damage. Never use damaged PPE. PPE examples include lab coats, latex gloves, eye goggles, face masks and shields, etc.
- Wash your hands and other skin surfaces thoroughly and immediately if contaminated.
- When using sharp items (scalpels, needles, pipettes, etc.) that may potentially be contaminated, use a puncture resistant container for storage and disposal after use.
If you think you have been exposed
If you have come in contact with blood or other potentially infectious fluids, you’ve been involved in an exposure incident. Stay calm, wash yourself thoroughly, and report to your supervisor right away. Inform your supervisor of how, when, where, and whose blood you came in contact with. If you have been involved in an exposure incident, seek medical attention. A medical professional will provide you with appropriate testing, treatment, and education.
Bloodborne Pathogens Program
In 1991, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began requiring employers with workers potentially exposed to blood or other infectious materials to establish a Bloodborne Pathogens Program. The purpose of a Bloodborne Pathogens Program is to protect employees from health hazards associated with bloodborne pathogens and to provide appropriated treatment and counseling should an employee be exposed to bloodborne pathogens.
For more detailed information and updates, visit the website maintained by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Contact OMAG Loss Control Services if you have questions or suggestions for other topics related to Municipal Workplace Safety Issues. 1 (800) 234-9461 or E-mail Kprichard@omag.org.